Many couples drink together. People who use recreational drugs do so often with their partner. As a result, it’s not uncommon for couples to struggle with substance abuse issues.
If you and your partner are both dealing with addiction, there are drug rehab centers that can treat couples.
Generally, couples will be separated for much of treatment, partaking in individual therapy and sleeping on their own. They will likely join together for couples therapy or marital counseling. In the later parts of treatment, they may share living quarters.
The Connection Between Addiction and Relationships
In many ways, a couple’s shared addiction can be even more dangerous than an individual drug problem. Each person can become dependent on the other, shutting off the outside world and becoming entwined in a dysfunctional relationship and addiction patterns.
The relationship itself can become part of the addiction, with each partner relying on the other to obtain drugs and to provide assurance about lifestyle choices. This can become incredibly unhealthy, with one or both partners discouraging any positive actions that could lead to a path to recovery and encouraging increased use to ensure the other won’t leave them behind in addiction. This is especially dangerous with drugs that can easily lead to overdose, like opioids.
How Does Couples Treatment Work?
Each drug rehab center is different, and many will deal with couples who enter treatment together differently. Some will allow a couple to sleep together in the same room. Others will prefer to have each partner in their own space, so they can fully experience individual healing.
Most often, rehab centers will recommend that couples originally sleep separately. Once they are more stable in recovery, they may be permitted to live in the same accommodations.
Drug treatment centers will design a treatment program that provides comprehensive counseling and therapy.
This is where the bulk of work in recovery takes place, and it will include both couples therapy and individual therapy.
Individual therapy will be necessary to work on personal issues contributing to substance abuse. The factors that led each person to addiction will be different. Each partner has their personal psychological triggers, brain chemistry, and underlying issues that must be addressed. Identifying the triggers that contribute to substance abuse and learning to avoid or manage those triggers is a crucial process of individual therapy.
Couples therapy will help to identify any harmful relationship patterns that may be feeding into the cycle of addiction. Communication abilities will be improved. The couple will gain the insight and tools needed to ensure they’re able to support each other in recovery fully.
Most medical professionals and addiction specialists agree that it’s preferable for drug-dependent couples to enter treatment programs separately.
According to a 2004 study, individuals in these relationships may report a high level of relationship satisfaction due in part to the shared reward and pleasure system of addiction. When this reward system is taken away by abstaining from drugs, relationship satisfaction may be reduced. In fact, the relationship may be nearly unrecognizable or revealed to be full of problematic triggers and dysfunctional patterns.
This may create an antagonistic relationship between the relationship and drug recovery. The couple may feel that their relationship is disintegrating as they attempt abstinence from the substance. One or both of the individuals may try to sabotage the recovery process to protect the relationship, hanging onto addiction and their dysfunctional relationship patterns.
In a situation in which both individuals are in rehab together, this can lead to the couple choosing to exit treatment together rather than finish it. If the couple is separated and attends separate treatment programs, each person may be more likely to complete treatment.
There has not been a great deal of research conducted on couples completing drug treatment programs together.
Behavioral couples therapy (BCT) has been proven effective in helping couples overcome substance abuse problems and toxic family dynamics, but much of this research has been conducted only on couples in which only one individual was struggling with a substance use disorder.
Still, many professionals believe that dually addicted couples can benefit from behavioral couples therapy if both individuals in the couple truly want to stop using and are committed to recovery. This is especially true for more serious or long-term couples who have experienced stability in their relationship before substance abuse, who share common long-term goals, or who have a family together.
Perhaps the most important benefit of a couples rehab center is that it may be the only way to convince a couple to begin treatment. Many individuals will not leave their partner to enter treatment even if the partner could enter treatment elsewhere. This is asking the individual to let go of two addictions: the substance and their codependent relationship.
Allowing a couple to enter rehab together may give them a sense of security even if the treatment plan calls for them to be housed and treated individually. While many consider a couple entering recovery together a less-than-perfect situation, in some cases, it may be the only way to convince the individuals to take the first step toward recovery.
How to Choose a Couples Rehab Center
When choosing a couples rehab center, look for treatment programs that have experience successfully treating couples through a comprehensive approach that will focus on both individual and couples therapy. Seek out treatment centers that will accommodate your specific situation. You’ll want a center that has housing options to meet your needs and therapists trained in behavioral couples therapy or marital counseling.
Couples should also look for treatment centers that offer robust aftercare planning. Reentry into everyday life, with its many stressors and substance use triggers, can be difficult.
Sharing the experience with a partner can make relapse more appealing. It may just take an impulsive suggestion from a partner — a reminder of the “good times” — to enter the addiction cycle once again. Through treatment and aftercare planning, each person can develop better life and coping skills that will help them to be a source of strength for their partner.
Relationships in which both partners are struggling with substance abuse can easily become codependent and dysfunctional. But if both individuals truly want to get sober and make a full recovery, they can undergo drug treatment together.
Some experts recommend that couples seek out treatment on their own. In an individual treatment program, each partner can wholly focus on their own recovery before they begin to address relationship issues. Sometimes, this is the best option.
Other times, couples may benefit from getting treatment together.
It’s a personal decision. Discuss the best path forward for you with your treatment team.